What Are The Environmental Costs Of AI?

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We all agree that Artificial intelligence is the future. But with the climate change row hitting us, are we really answering the question of what is the environmental cost of AI? Or if we question it the other way, is the environmental cost of AI worth the returns and the climate change? Then what would be our answers.
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Credits: Modern Diplomacy


We all are aware that the pollution caused by humans is leading to global warming and melting of the ice, which can cause natural disasters like floods etc. Let’s understand how Artificial Intelligence affects the environment.   

What is the environmental cost of AI?

So, we know that a computer uses electricity to run. Similarly, robots and other devices operated by Artificial Intelligence too need electricity to sustain. The sustainability of electricity depends on how its produced. Suppose this electricity is produced from coal and other fossil fuels, then it is considered highly dangerous as fossil fuels are non-renewable resources, and they also cause pollution as they burn.

A greener alternative to this is Solar Power. Other resources like wind and tidal energy are also harnessed to make electricity. Hence, green energy is recommended for being environmentally friendly.    

So now that our robot is running on electricity made from green and renewable sources, there is something else that matters. While computers work, they emit heat which is cooled by the fan in the CPU cabinet. But what about those supercomputers who manage and store the data of the World Wide Web.  

By 2025, we’ll top 175 ZB worth of data being stored globally. (That’s 175 trillion gigabytes, or 175 plus 12 zeros.)  All these data centres need to be stored in a cooler environment. And scientists estimate that the cooling cost of the centres would increase every year as new data is generated and more global warming occurs. Hence, AI affects the environment by heating the environment and also requiring more energy to make the machine cooler. 

Is Artificial Intelligence really sustainable? Let’s find out.

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